My last blog post was full of fun doodles and as I was writing the text, I started coming out with what I've written in this blog post. But looking at it - such a fun, light, blog post - I thought, no. I don't even want these words sitting together with it, as a sort of apology. There's nothing wrong with having a bit of a play while I'm working, no matter how busy I am. I shouldn't have to taint every bit of fun with an apology or explanation. But often I feel like I ought to.
Dear Sarah, I've noticed on Twitter that you've had some extra time to draw. I was wondering if you could make a drawing for my charity? Perhaps a drawing of a ________, since that is the charity mascot. If you could send it by next week, that would be wonderful.
That's a made-up e-mail, but it looks like several e-mails sitting right now in my Inbox. And because of these, I feel the imagined pressure from the much larger stack of other unanswered e-mail requests, even though I know I shouldn't.
One thing that really gets my back up is that when people see me on Twitter or my blog, making these light sketches, they assume I have lots of extra time and contact me, pointing out this observation, and requesting items for charity, a free drawing for their child, etc. I'm actually a bit frantic about my deadline, but if I get too worked up, I just shut down and can't do anything. There are certain things I need to do, just to keep my brain working right, and my creativity going.
If my creativity dries up, that's the end of my job. These things I do can look a lot like play - they are play - but it doesn't mean I have any shortage of things to do. I might even want to see my husband sometimes, or have a weekend. Blogging takes time, but it helps me process what I've been getting up to, so I don't get overwhelmed as everything swirls into an unmanageable, half-remembered blur.
I've reluctantly had to start turning down all requests to do any more events this year. If you could come along to the events I'm already doing, that would be WONDERFUL. If you catch me at an event, there's a lot more chance you might get a spur-of-the-moment sketch, and I usually make a little drawing when I sign books. Even Summer Reading Challenge library events; I'd genuinely love to visit every library in Britain, but if I take any more days out of my schedule, I won't have any new books.
Please, please don't send me any more requests for drawings to send to charity right now. I've been getting an overwhelming amount of requests recently and can't even stay on top of the e-mails. It makes me feel a bit panicky, thinking people might assume my lack of reply shows coldness from me, or that I don't think their charity is important. They are very important, I just can't deal with the sheer volume. Opening my Inbox feels like walking down the Strand in London, dodging chuggers. Except imagine that all those charity people in their branded vests are nice people you know at least a little bit, quite possibly volunteers, you know that they're working hard themselves, and most likely they've done helpful things for you so you feel you owe them a favour. How long do you think it would take you to walk down the road?
If I had staff who could answer the e-mail, put the paper in front of me and whisk it away and take care of posting it after I finished, that would be one thing.
But as it is, a single 'simple' request can take more than an hour to deal with: doing the 5-minute sketch, finding packaging, addressing it, walking it over to the not-very-nearby post office, waiting in the queue, walking back. People give me lots of tips - get an intern, hire staff, take everything at once to the post office, etc - but I can't really deal with all that right now. Taking on staff requires time - I'd need to manage them and look after them - not to mention cost. (Don't mention interns; they take more time than you would think, and there's physically no space for them to sit in the studio.) I really just need to get on with my work and send out a mass apology if I haven't answered your e-mail.
I feel a bit weird that I feel I need to apologise for doing what I want with my own time, but the issue keeps coming up. And I remember all the years of when no one wanted me to do anything at all, that was hard in a different way. I wish there was some balance, a middle ground, it seems like it's either all or nothing in book world.
So yes, you may see me 'playing', and it's not saying that these requests aren't all important, perhaps even more important. But I just need to do it.